US designates Deputy Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad
The State Department today designated Ziyad al Nakhalah (Abu Tariq), the Deputy Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). PIJ has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since October 1997.
Nakhalah "has repeatedly taken credit for attacks against Israel," the State Department said. In addition, he has "cultivated strong relations with the Government of Iran, the world's primary State Sponsor of Terrorism." Nakhalah was one of a number of officials in Palestinian Islamic Jihad to admit that Iran had provided Palestinian terror groups, including PIJ, with Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles that were used during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
According to the State Department, Nakhalah in 2012 "emphasized the importance of [PIJ's] expanding and improving relations" with Hamas. Indeed, in October 2012, the two Palestinian terror groups announced they were conducting joint operations against Israel. In a recent email exchange with Reuters from Damascus, Nakhalah boasted that "the relation with Hamas is at its best level now."
In its designation, the State Department noted that PIJ has conducted "numerous attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets," some of which have killed Americans.
The designation, which stated that PIJ "receives financial assistance and training primarily from Iran," identified a December 2013 bus bombing as a PIJ operation. On Jan. 2, Israeli authorities announced the arrest of 14 individuals, at least four of whom were PIJ operatives, in connection with the December attack.
Ramadan Shallah, the current PIJ Secretary-General, has been listed as a SDGT since November 1995. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this month met with Shallah and other PIJ officials, including the newly designated Nakhalah, in Beirut.